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Estancia Churrascaria is open. Who'll take the plunge?

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It opened today on Hwy 290 S next to the Holiday Inn Express, just east of Brody Lane. So, who will be brave and take the first plunge (and report back)? I passed by at 4PM - admittedly, not a busy hour - and noticed a group of workers smoking outside the entrance. Not a good sign ... not because they are not busy, but rather because they're loitering rather uprofessionally.

Other than that, I know nothing about the place.

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  1. My Brazilian friends went to the soft opening a couple nights ago and raved. It is not a corporate joint like Fogo, and is more a family run place. And for a while, a good value...i think they are doing $15 lunches and $20 or $25 dinners...that's "all you can eat". Let's get some takers!!!!

    6 Replies
    1. re: sambamaster

      Jumped on my hog and rolled 12 miles down there in a subtropical style downpour for lunch yesterday...it was very good.The much talked about salad bar was ok,fresh mozz and taboulleh starred the veg portion of the show...lackluster artichoke hearts and woody asparagus competed with woeful tomatoes for lesser status....the meats were another matter altogether....they kept em coming and I managed to power through three rounds before giving up.Obviously they brought out giant skewers of lesser cuts off the bat,but the rare eye of round was still delicious,the bacon wrapped chicken was glorious...fatty salty bacon had permeated the flesh of the bird....finally beef tenderloin...normally not my favorite cut,was stellar,dripping wonderfully with good salty blood and juices.Yum.The mashed potatoes were lackluster but the fried yucca reminded me of when you get fries that have accidentally stayed in the basket for a couple runs through the fat.Outstanding.The little buttery rolls were also good but the plantains were not fully ripened.For 15 bones a very good value.Nice to see a flock of petite Brazilian beauties powering through an AMAZING amount of meat at the next table too.

      1. re: scrumptiouschef

        Thanks for the review scrumptiouschef. I'm definitely going to check it out this week.

        The place with the great salad bar everyone was talking about was not Estancia Churrascaria, it is Fogo De Chao. Fogo doesn't open until this fall/winter.

        1. re: Mike B

          Mike - do you mean that Fogo de Chao will open a location in the Austin area later this year? That would be great....

          1. re: markh8624

            mark, fogo is supposed to open in the space on 3rd street formerly occupied by houlihan's. hope this helps.

            1. re: ktown378

              thanks - I just noticed on Fogo's website that they have Austin listed as opening on 3rd St (the old Houlihan's) in "late 2007." Can't wait....

              1. re: markh8624

                yeah, that $50 salad bar is always worth waiting for!!!!!
                the original FdC in São Paulo is NOT rodizio as I recall (from a trip in 2000) which means the meats are grilled to order, not the endless parade, and though there was a salad bar, it was not the focus...the meats there are higher quality as a result and the price is more reasonable.

    2. We went tonight and took the kids. I thought it was really good, and although there were some meats that were a bit overcooked (notably the chicken and the pork ribs), most of what we had compared favorably or was even better than what we've had at Fogo de Chao in Houston. And comparing the price - $24 per person - I'd take Estancia any day.

      I thought most all of the beef was good, especially the flavor of the garlic marinated stuff. The filet mignon was also excellent. I didn't see any lamb come around, but we might have just missed it.

      1. I love Churrascarias! With that said...

        I've had the pleasure of dining several times at Texas de Brasil and Fogo de Chao in Dallas, as well as Churrasco's in Houston (last weekend and over the past seven years). Churrasco's in Houston is a different experience - more formal service and actually my favorite of them all.

        We decided to check out Estancia Churrascaria for dinner this evening. I must give them some slack on a few fronts - they are newly opened, they don't have their liquor license and the servers, while very gracious and forthcoming, are quite inexperienced.

        Taking Churrasco's out of the mix, I'll have to compare to Texas de Brasil and Fogo de Chao.

        We were in and out of Estancia in about an hour, if not less. (The other two that I mentioned were more of an event, a couple of hours). The service was very hurried with no attention paid to the "more or no more card" placed at each table setting.

        The salad bar wasn't really comparable though I loved a few items, in particular the hearts of palm were very tender in the center, the artichoke hearts were very nice and the marinated pepper salad was great. As another poster mentioned, the asparagus was awful - woody was a nice way to describe it. The rest was... hmmm.

        Before finishing the salad portion, the skewers started coming and coming quickly. There was tenderloin and chicken wrapped in bacon (both dry), sausage (unmemorable), pork ribs (I didn't like but my sister did), house special of tenderloin in garlic (very strong garlic), some type of sirloin that absolutely rocked, and lamb that I didn't have the opportunity to try.

        They offered dessert which there is no way we could try after sampling everything else. Even if we wanted to, it was pretty uninspired stuff ... cheesecake and the like. They offered coffee which was requested, but never made it to the table.

        They are obviously trying really hard to put together the experience. I don't think they are succeeding yet.

        The building is odd, the staff is unskilled and I do believe that the quality of the meat is low, or maybe they have yet to determine how to keep it tasting fresh while waiting for clientele.

        I wanted to love this place because I think that the idea is great... to take a very overpriced concept to everyone... but low quality is easily recognized (or maybe reheated meats?).

        I do give an A+ to the staff. Although inexperienced, the service was fantastic!!! Sometimes, just knowing that they are trying makes for a memorable experience.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Rene

          My friend and I tried it on Friday night just before 7. I've experienced Boi Na Braza in Atlanta (they also have a location in Dallas) and this did not compare at all.

          The first cut of filet mignon and several of the following cuts of sirloin were quite tasty. It began going downhill with the bacon-wrapped filet. The bacon was barely cooked and quite limp. Additionally, it had more of a proscuitto flavor that soaked into the filet (which was also gray in color and looked unappetizingly rare). Following that with the garlic beef which was too garlickly for me (and you're talking to a person who has put powdered garlic on pizza before...)

          I never saw the lamb at all. The "gauchos" were really pushing the chicken legs and sausage, and many of the beef dishes seemed to be difficult to find.

          The wait staff was a bit inexperienced and didn't provide the service bordering on fawning that some of the higher priced competitors provide. I agree about the gauchos not always following the cards on the table.

          I too felt rushed as compared to the several hour dinner I experienced at Boi Na Braza. This place has a lot of work to do to compete with the "chains" in the same genre, unless they decide to carve out a low-cost niche. Right now, for the same price, I'll take Texas Land and Cattle. (Of course, Morton's and Nick & Sam's aren't in the same price range.)

        2. A large group of us enjoyed our first trip this restaurant. A small, but fresh selection at the salad bar. We were severed by an eager to please wait staff, that were much easier with some to communicate in Spanish, but did provide overall good service. I think it reflects the labor shortage of experienced wait staff that Austin that is partially due to all the new restaurants Austin has to offer. The tenderloin and garlic beef were my favorites cuts. One of the best things was their lack of a liquor license that allows bring in a stellar selection of “big red wines” that complemented this meat feast. The desserts were surprising good and were huge portions. The only minor inconvenience was the lack of aisle space around our table. Another surprise was the check that averaged $37 per person, a good value for the all you can eat meal, bottled water, desserts, tax, & a 20% tip. We will be back again, hopefully before they get the liquor license. :)

          1. I went on Friday night and really enjoyed it. Although the salad bar may not be as good as Fogo de Chao's (which I've never been to), it is solid, with a wide selection of tasty veggies like bell peppers, hearts of palm, and artichokes. There was a wide selection of meat as well, all of it was quite tasty (though the outer cuts were a bit salty). The lamb and tenderloin, in particular, were delicious. I loved the plantains, the fried yucca, and the pao de queijo.

            Service was great. We never turned our card to the "green" side, but a curious look at one of the meats would bring a server (or two!) to the table.

            We left stuffed and happy. I think that Estancia is a terrific value for 25 dollars each. And it's BYOB!

            1 Reply
            1. re: catarata

              After reading all these reports, my wife and I gave it a try on Saturday night.

              So, let me start by saying, it absolutely does not compare to Fogo De Chao but is not bad for the price.

              They still don't have a liquor license and so the wine is free and flows pretty easily.

              The salad bar was just OK. It does have a good variety but definitely the freshness factor was a little lacking.

              The meats were not bad. Like other people have pointed out, most of the stuff was on the salty side but quite good. I really liked the lamb.

              The deserts were pretty decent - Yes, I can't believe we had desert but we thought they were included in the price of dinner. They actually run around $6-$8.

              The service was enthusiastic chaos. They don't have the formula down but everyone is so nice and so it is hard to be negative.

              On the whole, not bad - not great. Will try it out again in a few months .

            2. Tried it for lunch and it is certainly a good buy ... most of the meats were fresh and hot when served, and the staff was friendly. BTW, much to my surprise, the Key Lime Pie was excellent .. 2 of my co-workers from Flordia who are key Lime Pie snobs gave it major thumbs up !

              1. We went last night and I am still in a meat coma. It was delicious!! I thought the salad bar was very nice. Loved the artichoke crowns, nice greens, sun-dried tomatoes, pepper salad and fresh mozzarella, among other fresh and nice stuff.

                Side dishes (all you can eat) are black beans, garlic mashers, white rice (you have to ask for rice), fried bananas, fried yucca and some odd granular yucca stuff you are supposed to sprinkle on your beans and rice. Oh -- and the cheese rolls which were actually very delicate and delicious little pop-overs.

                The meat was the star, however. There were servers everywhere offering slices of filet mignon, garlic beef, traditional rump which was surprisingly tender and very well seasoned, sirloin, lamb, beef and pork ribs, sausage and chicken. On each skewer, they carry, there is rare, medium and well. I like rare meat and was not disappointed!! The meat was very delicious and tender and I asked the server whether it was local and she said that it was -- Central Texas beef is awesome, so I was not surprised. We even went for dessert and chose a decadent chocolate cake with a fudge filling with vanilla ice cream. OMG. So good. This was one of the better meals we have had in Austin and we got out of there for under $100. Oh -- service was excellent, too. The owner was there -- clearly very proud of his new place -- seemed like a very nice man. GO!

                1. We dined at Estancia on Friday evening. We used to frequent Fogo de Chao in Dallas. Our take on Estancia is that the food was much better seasoned than Fogo de Chao, the price was certainly better and beer and dessert were included. I loved the Pao de Quijo (cheese bread), it was better than I make at home.

                  Our cons were they poured bottled water without us asking for water and didn't tell us it was not included. Also it seemed so rushed in there. Overall it was a fantastic alternative to Fogo and we will definitely be back everytime we have guests in town (yes, even after Fogo de Chao opens up here in Austin).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Jo_Flo

                    Good to know they are now including dessert. We paid around $6 per person for our desserts last time, which we thought were included. I did get mine comped though, because they dropped one of the foot long knives on me while carving.

                  2. A nice place!! It does not compare to Fogo de chow but it is much more reasonable.
                    I agree with most of the comments and wish that they wouldn't rush the dinners so much. Most of the food is very good, although they hold back the good beef and you have to restrain them back from trying to bury you in chicken and sausage!

                    The building is odd and has too many tables, but its worth trying!!

                    Its a great deal and I will go back until they start trying to sell expensive wine.

                    1. My wife and I went for her Birthday last night. This was my second time at a Churrascaria (first was at Brazas in Mooresville, NC last week).. I'm pleased to say, at least in my limited comparative experience that we enjoyed every moment, food, salad bar and wine superb. Only 'complaint' was that the staff where almost over attentive. You have to control them and say no.. certainly the cards seemed to be there for decorative purposes only....
                      Still, a recommended place, total bill including tip ~$120 (3 cocktails, half red, two dinners)... not bad at all.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: thewifethedogsandme

                        I agree about the good food and the questionable service. On our last trip we were so rushed it took a lot away from a good time. They are trying to turn the tables so quickly to make up for their small dining room. I also miss not being able to bring our own wine in, but I can understand that.

                        1. re: Don_ya

                          Well, I went here a couple of weeks ago, and I'd have to say that I enjoyed it very much. I have been to Fogo de Chao several times. If you'd like a comparison, the salad bar here is much smaller and the quality of the items is not as high, although still much better than your average "salad bar". The sides were nothing really special--I did like the fried yucca and the bananas, but the potatos were very plain and a little gluey. On the other hand, the meats compared very well to the meats at Fogo de Chao (and I'm not there for the salad, anyway). The meats were uniformly good, and several were excellent. The staff was very rushed (just as they are at most churrascarias of this type), but they were very helpful. They regularly asked whether I preferred rare, medium rare, etc., and they did their best to comply. If you turned away an item, such as the sausage, they frequently asked if there was an item you preferred, and they would then go to the back and bring it to you. Also, they have a liquor license now, so they were able to make some delicious caipirinhas. One word of advice--if you are unfamiliar with the cuts of meat they feature, take a look at the description and make sure that you get to try each type you are interested in. It is very easy to accept everything they bring by and fill up before an item you would like to try has even made it by your table. For instance, I got almost all of the way through the meal before I realized that I hadn't yet been offered my favorite, the picanha. I requested it and they brought it out immediately, and then graciously brought it back twice more when I realized how good it was. I'm not saying they were hiding the prime cuts in the back and only bringing them out when you request them--I was offered filet with and without bacon and the alcatra (sirloin) and cordeiro (lamb) several times--it is just so quick and hectic for the gauchos that it is easy for them to miss you accidentally. If they don't bring a cut you want, just ask for it--they were VERY eager to please. All in all, at half the price of Fogo de Chao, I'd say this is a bargain--you trade off the fancier setting and salad bar for a less formal, but still very delicious, meat fest. I particularly liked the picanha, the alcatra, the filet, and the garlic beef.

                      2. Went for lunch with a friend. Presentation was pretty. Salad was ok. The meat was weird. Both of us and my DH the next day had to spit out most of the meat. It had a strange taste maybe of liver or some unpleasant seasoning. The fat on the bacon wrapped filet was gray and nasty. I have a discerning palate and was surprised and disappointed. I'd like to try again, but am a little nervouse about it. The waitstaff were friendly and attentive. The cheese popovers were cute, warm and abundant. The dessert, a creme brulee' was grainy, but with a divine flavor and tender topping. I wonder why no one else has posted about the strange taste of the meat. Will try once more.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mymimi

                          For what it's worth, I had a similar experience with an unusual flavoring. I couldn't agree more about the bacon. And it's not just like it was a Brazilian thing. I've been to another churrascaria before (Boi na Braza) and the meat was sublime.

                        2. I find Estancia just ok. I've been about 4 times. Great if you want to mindlessly stuff yourself with meat, but the quality is lacking. Many of the meats are dry and lack flavor (and I do always ask for medium rare). The only meat I do end up liking is the picanha (sp?), but it isn't consistent.

                          I went when they first opened, and again and again, hoping for improvements...but as the prices keep raising I've become increasingly disinterested.

                          The salad bar is ok. I was excited for the fresh mozzerella, but it was very stiff and rubbery. The yuca is consistently over-fried and cut too thin for my taste. But those warm cheesy rolls, while nothing terribly special, are a guilty pleasure of mine.

                          This is the only churrascaria I've been to, so I can't compare with others.

                          1. My only other churrascaria experience is Rei Do Gado in San Diego so that's what I'll compare it to. I think Estancia has very comparable meats but the portuguese sausage isn't as good as RDG. Every piece brought by our table last Saturday was flavorful but the the garlic steak was a bit off (burned garlic perhaps?). I never looked at the menu so I know none of the cuts by name, but the (what appeared to be) tri tip was my favorite. The salad bar was very tiny compared to RDG which actually had two salad bars, each about 15 feet long and a lot more variety. The sides brought to the table were good, especially the cheese rolls. I'll definitely go again and pay more attention to what cuts are served.

                            1. I LOVE Brazilian food, and think that churrascaria is one great way to sample lots of delicious meat as well as many traditional Brazilian sides. Therefore, when I discovered Estancia Churrascaria opening in my neighborhood, I was very excited. $75 later, I was very disappointed. The meat was good – not as great as I've had it before in the Northeast – but the sides were terrible! The fried plantains were really just roasted bananas, they would've been great with some ice cream and sauce, but not what I want to pair with my pork and chicken. We weren't offered any black beans and rice, there weren't any collard greens, and the salad bar, which traditionally has all of these delicious sides, had things like mozzerella & sundried tomatoes! Not a heart-of-palm in site. The fried Yucca was the best part of the meal, which should say a lot.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: stella13

                                In their defense, when we went, they specifically said that the sides were fried bananas, and not plantains. The same thing was said at Fogo de Chao, when we went there. While I also prefer fried plantains to fried bananas, I do believe this is intentional and can't fault them for it.

                                Overall, I would spend the extra $10 to go to Fogo de Chao. I believe the superior salad bar and the quality of the meat at FDC is worth it. But I would consider going to Estancia again for lunch.

                              2. Does anyone know if it is still BYOB? Also do they have a party room or space for a group of 20+? Can some of our party get salad bar only?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: amykragan


                                  I just went there not too long ago and they indeed had their liquor license. We actually tried version of a Mojito and it was quite tasty. However, things change so you may want to call them to make sure. I'm sure they can arrange a party of 20 guests, although I'm not sure if they have a specialized room for such occasion. And regrettably, I'm not sure about the salad bar although I would say that the salad bar is definitely not the star 'attraction' there. It's all about the meat.

                                  1. re: SpaceAgeNinjaCowboy

                                    Thanks Cowboy. I'll call them after work, just wanted some insider tips from fellow hounds.
                                    I know Fogo will do salad bar only for our vegetarian friends while the rest of us embrace our carnivore ways.
                                    But we'd rather try this place.

                                  2. re: amykragan

                                    Here's the reply I got from them:
                                    "The price for dinner per person is $29.90. (drinks, desserts, tax and gratuity are extra), including all the meats, salads and side dishes.
                                    For the vegeterians the price for dinner per person is $14.90 and that includes the salads and the side dishes."

                                  3. I went with one of my daughters to Estancia yesterday. It was fun, but I'd have to basically concur with the opinions which describe lesser-quality meat or execution - none of the meats were outstanding and some were dry. The service was excellent (though they did ignore the yes/no service cards once we started eating, but we went very early and there were only a few people in there at the time). They asked us if we had any specific requests, so when we got to the end and hadn't tried the pork tenderloin, I mentioned it to one of them and out it came within a couple of minutes. Some people had said that the sides weren't replenished, but ours were promptly replenished. Nothing terribly special about the salad bar, and my daughter could not bite through her asparagus spear (woody, as previously described). Mozzarella balls were flavorless.

                                    It was certainly different from what we were used to, and I'm glad that we went, but I have no plans to return.